Many of you, at this time of the year, have enjoyed joyful family reunions, have exchanged gifts with family and friends, and have pondered the message of this season. How was your Christmas? What did you get? My message today is has a bit to do about giving and receiving gifts ..
Moroni in his final message to us teaches (Moroni 10:8-18) And again, I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them. For behold, to one is given by the Spirit of God, that he may teach the word of wisdom; And to another, that he may teach the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; And to another, exceedingly great faith; and to another, the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; And again, to another, that he may work mighty miracles; And again, to another, that he may prophesy concerning all things; And again, to another, the beholding of angels and ministering spirits; And again, to another, all kinds of tongues; And again, to another, the interpretation of languages and of divers kinds of tongues. And all these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally, according as he will. And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ.
How was your Christmas? What did you get?
“And Christ truly said unto our fathers: If ye have faith ye can do all things which are expedient unto me. And now I speak unto all the ends of the earth—that if the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief. (Moroni 10: 23-24).
This year I was asked to fill in at our ward party as the Santa Claus. As each child came forward to visit, I would ask: Have you been good this year? What would you like for Christmas this year? Basically I was asking if they believed .. if they were able to act on that belief .. if they had faith. Then we were able to present them with a small gift. The gifts we exchange with each other are symbolic of the gifts we can and have received from God.
“And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ. And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that all these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away, even as long as the world shall stand, only according to the unbelief of the children of men. Wherefore, there must be faith; and if there must be faith there must also be hope; and if there must be hope there must also be charity. And except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God; neither can ye be saved in the kingdom of God if ye have not faith; neither can ye if ye have no hope. And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity. (Moroni 10:18-22)”
Faith brings hope, hope brings charity, charity qualifies us to return back to Him. Conversely, without charity we have no hope, without hope .. no faith, without faith .. despair. Despair because of iniquity.
Happy New Year, Brothers and Sisters! Traditionally, the new year has been a time for a fresh start, to repent, and to make and keep New Year's Resolutions.
Nephi says it this way: “Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. (2 Ne 31:20)”
Can we do better? Can we 'always remember' him, learn to pray with more faith? Can we read and study the scriptures more regularily, keep a personal journal, attend our meetings more faithfully? Perhaps these would be things to include in our list of 'resolutions'.
I find it interesting that these 'basic' things are so critical in our progress along the path back to our Father. Why is Satan so intent on keeping us from faithfully doing these 'basic' things? These are all just different ways that our Father has provided to help us along the way for us to commune with him. These are ways the Father has to provide revelation to us. By obeying we can enjoy the Gift of the Spirit and learn better what the Lord would have us say and do.
Regular Family and Personal Prayer: Call me! How many of you parents would like you children to call more frequently? Would you like to hear a better response than 'fine' when discussing how the day went? Do your children talk with you? Now, how are your personal and family prayers going? “For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the devil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray. (2 Ne 32:8)” When you left your room this morning, did you think to pray? Even when not permitted to pray out loud, we can 'pour out our hearts' to Him. In Mosiah 24, when Amulon persecuted the people of Alma: “And it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God. And Amulon commanded them that they should stop their cries; and he put guards over them to watch them, that whosoever should be found calling upon God should be put to death. And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts. (Mosiah 24:10-12)”
Scriptures: Not reading and living the scriptures we have been provided with is like leaving the Brass Plates behind on our way to the Promised Land. Without the knowing and learning the scriptures, we 'dwindle in unbelief'. We and our children and grandchildren need to know what we know, they need to be taught what we know, and learn the blessings that come from doing what is right. King Benjamin taught: “My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God. For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children .. (Mosiah 1:3-4)”
Keep a personal journal: The scriptures we have today are nothing more than the personal journals of the prophets. Nephi wrote: “Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not. (1 Nephi 9:5)”. “And I also command you that ye keep a record of this people, according as I have done, upon the plates of Nephi, and keep all these things sacred which I have kept, even as I have kept them; for it is for a wise purpose that they are kept. (Alma 37:2). This is an area I could do better in. We have Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and Webpages .. what need we more? We need to record our sacred experiences, our testimonies, and perhaps, these things need to be preserved on something a bit more permanent than silicon chip ..
Attend our meetings, keep the Sabbath day: “And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day (D&C 59:9)”. “And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you (3 Nephi 18:7)”.
The Gift of the Spirit – Personal Revelation: Elder Scott in Oct 2009 said: [quote] “What may appear initially to be a daunting task will be much easier to manage over time as you consistently strive to recognize and follow feelings prompted by the Spirit. Your confidence in the direction you receive from the Holy Ghost will also become stronger. I witness that as you gain experience and success in being guided by the Spirit, your confidence in the impressions you feel can become more certain than your dependence on what you see or hear. Spirituality yields two fruits. The first is inspiration to know what to do. The second is power, or the capacity to do it. These two capacities come together. That’s why Nephi could say, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded.” 2 He knew the spiritual laws upon which inspiration and power are based. Yes, God answers prayer and gives us spiritual direction when we live obediently and exercise the required faith in Him.” [end quote]
Elder Bednar in his talk last Apr 2011 “The Spirit of Revelation” concluded: [quote] “In many of the uncertainties and challenges we encounter in our lives, God requires us to do our best, to act and not be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26), and to trust in Him. We may not see angels, hear heavenly voices, or receive overwhelming spiritual impressions. We frequently may press forward hoping and praying—but without absolute assurance—that we are acting in accordance with God’s will. But as we honor our covenants and keep the commandments, as we strive ever more consistently to do good and to become better, we can walk with the confidence that God will guide our steps. And we can speak with the assurance that God will inspire our utterances. This is in part the meaning of the scripture that declares, “Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45). As you appropriately seek for and apply unto the spirit of revelation, I promise you will “walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5; 2 Nephi 12:5). Sometimes the spirit of revelation will operate immediately and intensely, other times subtly and gradually, and often so delicately you may not even consciously recognize it. But regardless of the pattern whereby this blessing is received, the light it provides will illuminate and enlarge your soul, enlighten your understanding (see Alma 5:7; 32:28), and direct and protect you and your family.” [end quote]
Christmas time is Family time. The concept of going 'home for Christmas' is much like the goal we share in returning 'home with Him'. Just as Christmas is not Christmas without family get togethers and phone calls, without hearing from or seeing all the family, just being together, Heaven would not be Heaven without the promise of reunion with Family and Friends and Loved Ones. In Lehi's dream, once he had found and tasted of the Tree of Life, his first thought was to his family and how they were doing on the path. At Christmas, properly celebrated, we find ourselves more Christian, more Loving, Happier.
“The Lord inspired Lehi to declare the fundamental truth, “Men are, that they might have joy.” That is a conditional statement: “they might have joy.” It is not conditional for the Lord. His intent is that each of us finds joy. It will not be conditional for you as you obey the commandments, have faith in the Master, and do the things that are necessary to have joy here on earth. Your joy in life depends upon your trust in Heavenly Father and His holy Son, your conviction that their plan of happiness truly can bring you joy. Pondering their doctrine will let you enjoy the beauties of this earth and enrich your relationships with others. It will lead you to the comforting, strengthening experiences that flow from prayer to Father in Heaven and the answers He gives in return. (Elder Scott, Apr 1996, Finding Joy in Life).”
Joy to the World! For thus saith the scripture: Choose ye this day, whom ye will serve. (Alma 30:8). “He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you. (Helaman 14:31). “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy (John 16:20)”. “Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full (D&C 101:36).
May the Spirit of Christmas be with you. That Spirit is also known as the Spirit of Christ or the Pure Love of Christ or sometimes simply Charity. May we learn to get and give the best gifts, the Gift of Love, the Gifts the Spirit .. the ability to love and do the will of our Father.
Happy New Year. May you make and keep wise new year resolutions. May we better live our religion, may we better learn to listen and obey, to recognize the spirit of revelation, and to 'go and do the things which the Lord has commanded' ..